Click on the quote below to read the article...

More than twenty years ago, one of our members was arguing with a couple of young churchgoers he had met on the street in Melbourne, when it was time for the rest of us to go to lunch. It was clear to those of us looking on that the argument was going nowhere. We asked him (several times) to finish up the conversation so that we could go; but the argument continued unabated. Finally, we had to be very firm about it, and simply demand that he walk away. This led to a discussion amongst ourselves later, in which we coined a phrase: "180 degrees".

The prolonged argument had occurred, according to this member, because it was not possible to get out of it when he had been asked to come with the rest of us. "Not possible" was really just a way of saying that it was not possible to leave without at least appearing to be conceding defeat. And "180 degrees" was our term for just how easy it really is to get out of such a situation. It's as easy as turning around and walking away.

The only thing that is hard about walking away from an argument is what it does to our pride. Walking away, in itself, is relatively easy; and the more you learn to do it, the easier it gets. But the real battle is one with our pride.

It is most difficult to walk away from an argument in which you have overpowering evidence of your own rightness. Being able to "win" the argument on the basis of having the truth on our side makes many of us want to keep on trying until we have finally won. But that overlooks the fact that real victory in an argument depends on both sides being open to being proven wrong. If the person you are arguing with is not open to being shown that they are wrong, then you may as well concede defeat before you start. Listen long enough to find out if they really have something positive to offer you in the way of education; and if they don't, then don't waste any further time on them.

This is something that many of us miss repeatedly, and that new members (and friends) almost always have difficulty with. They see the truth in what we are saying, and see how totally consistent it is with what Jesus taught, and so, in a religious situation in particular, they cannot resist jumping into the fray and quoting a few verses to show that our position is the right one. People rejecting the truth in what they are saying invariably give away their own ignorance, dishonesty, or, at best, confusion when they respond, and that just eggs on the Jesus Christian (or Jesus Christian supporter), who wants to clear up the confusion, or point out the dishonesty or ignorance, forgetting that they are beaten before they start, if the person has shown that they are not open to being proved wrong.

The Bible says that anyone who is a "heretic" (and we think this just means not really interested in changing to conform with the truth) after "the first and second admonition" should simply be "rejected". But, of course, when you walk away from such a "heretic", you can be sure that they will be the ones shouting after you that you are running scared because they have shown you up. Until you can accept that staying on will not achieve anything, you will continue to waste time with such people. In the end, you are almost certain to have to concede defeat anyway. By "defeat" we don't mean that they will have actually shown you to be wrong about the issue being discussed, but you will need to concede that you have falsely assumed that you could change the other person through reasoned arguments.

Jesus commanded his followers not to offer their "pearls" to "pigs", meaning to people who would just use what we say to attack us further, without truly listening to what we are saying. A sincere person often believes (naively) that they need only bare their soul to the argumentative person, and the argumentative person will be won over. Not true, unfortunately, and that is what Jesus was trying to tell us. In fact, if anyone is going to change, it will end up being the sincere person, because often the argument is being directed clearly and simply at driving a wedge in between you and other sincere followers of Jesus. The most common way that the wedge gets in is through your pride. In one way or another, the rest of us are trying to whisper "180 degrees" in your ear, but the argumentative person is saying, "If you listen to them, then you will have to concede defeat! Prove that you are free by ignoring them and coming with me."

Nobody likes to concede defeat, and yet it is something that we have to do over and over in life... in one way or another. If people have a proven record of being "heretics" (i.e. unopen to admitting error on their own part), then you really need to leave them to someone else to deal with. All of the reasons that you imagine will enable you to get through where others have failed almost certainly amount to delusions built on your own pride. This is especially true of relatives. Jesus himself said that he would not be accepted by his own family (and the Bible indicates that this was true... at least not until after he had died and resurrected). So who are we to imagine that we can do better? If your relatives are going to be changed at all, it will not be by your arguments; it will be only by observing your strong resolve to carry on with what you are doing despite their efforts to draw you away.

Sometimes it is better to lose the battle and win the war. These little arguments that we have to walk away from (while they laugh at and ridicule us for doing so) are just minor battles compared to the real war. In fact, from God's radical way of looking at things, often when we are outwardly conceding defeat to a stubborn foe, we are actually winning a war against our own pride. And in the end, that is far more important than winning an argument anyway.

Register or log in to take the quiz for this article


Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account